Deal sought on loop project in Tupelo

By Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – One of the final hurdles to completing the northern loop will send Mayor Jack Reed Jr. and other transportation officials to the Chickasaw Nation headquarters in Oklahoma.
Reed is scheduled to meet with the nation’s Lt. Gov. Jefferson Keel on Feb. 23. He’ll be joined by Tupelo Major Thoroughfare Committee Chairman Greg Pirkle, as well as representatives from the Mississippi Department of Transportation and Federal Highway Administration.
The group will discuss how the Major Thoroughfare Program’s new road through west Tupelo – often called the northern loop – might affect Chickasaw land.
Although Pirkle said the road crosses no sacred or burial sites belonging to the nation, it still might have an indirect impact on its lands.
Basically, if the road goes anywhere near the Chickasaw land, there is a possibility for impact.
Because of that possibility, the parties will meet to discuss potential impacts and reach consensus on how to mitigate whatever might arise.
The northern loop will extend Coley Road north and east to connect with Barnes Crossing Road, thereby providing another access point to the busy Barnes Crossing shopping district. It crosses U.S. Highway 78 and the Natchez Trace Parkway.
One section of the $20 million, 4.5-mile loop already is completed, with four more yet to be built.
It’s unclear what a mitigation plan would look like, but one idea included the establishment of a city fund for future projects to benefit the Chickasaws.
If the meeting is successful, Pirkle said, the nation will sign off on the northern loop. That signature opens the doors for federal funds already earmarked for the northern loop but which await the nation’s word.
“The Chickasaw said they want to work with us,” Pirkle told his committee during its most recent meeting at City Hall. “I have no reason to believe they will hold us up.”

Contact Emily Le Coz at (662) 678-1588 or emily.lecoz@djournal.com.